The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
[Literary critic and intellectual] Nicolás Rosa presented this text for discussion at the Primer Encuentro Nacional del Arte de Vanguardia [First National Encounter of Avant-garde Art] (Rosario, Argentina, 1968). It appeals to the communications theories of Noam Chomsky while analyzing the aesthetic phenomenon through the lenses of semiotics, communications theory and transactional psychology. In his address, there are also references to the mathematical theory of information relating to the problem of the predictability or unpredictability of a message, its probability and value, as well as the originality of the experimental artwork. These references are not merely an erudite display that he applies to an understanding of avant-garde production. Rosa also points out a relationship of mutual repercussions between these theories and avant-garde art. He states that informational theory “has generated an art of communications and, in turn, this new art has lead to the creation of a theory that explains it.”
On the other hand, Rosa believes that a revolutionary political consciousness should produce works that are aesthetically revolutionary (“the support for a revolutionary consciousness, politically speaking, makes the creation of aesthetically revolutionary works even more urgent”). He also questions the function exercised by art criticism with regard to the sanctioning as well as the normalization of experimental art production, in order finally to redefine the place of the critic that, in a certain respect, befits him. Rosa stops to consider the existing link between the creator’s subjective awareness and the “objective instance” of the artwork. He believes “it concerns bringing revolutionary consciousness and revolutionary art together (…) within the “objective instance” of the work so that it may possess a clear revolutionary significance.”
Along this line of reasoning, Rosa emphasizes the possibilities of the use of mass communications in art, referring to the new communications theories. He also describes the communications pathologies referring to corruption, rumor, deliberate distortion and the slander spread through informational media. As he defines the possibilities for artistic endeavor, [Rosa] proposes [the creation of] a transmission channel that would serve as an alternative to the official communications system. These ideas are unmistakably present a few months later in the planning and realization of the Primer Encuentro de “Tucumán Arde,” [“Tucumán is Burning”] whose central objective was to generate an alternative information circuit that would refute the official propaganda.
Within the Itinerario de 1968 [Timetable for 1968], a term which refers to the sequence of actions and resolutions undertaken by the Argentinean vanguard during its accelerated process of artistic and political radicalization, the Primer Encuentro de Arte de Vanguardia stands out as the instance of greatest self-reflection regarding the placement these same artists had reached once they had broken with the artistic institutions [of that time]. Artists from Buenos Aires and Rosario came together in the latter city during the weekend of August 10-11. There they held a meeting that demonstrated the density characterizing the production and discussion of aesthetic and political ideas held during the Itinerario del ’68; [The assembly also] conveyed the visual artists’ self-awareness regarding the “existential crisis” they were then experiencing.
The intensity of the ruptures [the artists] were then engaged in placed them beyond—or more exactly in opposition to–the modernizing circuit with which they had coexisted up to that point. They lived through that displacement and withdrawal from the usual places and supports (physical, material, and institutional) for creating art with a markedly self-reflective attitude. This attitude could already be perceived in the writings (manifestos, leaflets, letters) that accompanied their interventions throughout the Itinerario de’68. But it is undoubtedly at the Primer Encuentro that the collective, which would later be joined by other important intellectuals, first assembles in an environment for discussion and production.
The Encuentro entails the will to construct a greater collective institution: one that goes beyond the existing groups, workshops, friendships and affinities. [This resolve] would bind the artists of the country’s avant-garde together as well as place them in a space of theoretical production, something that was not habitual in the visual arts field. They did not come together to create art or to organize a show; they met in order to evaluate for themselves their current position and the direction they should take.
The four papers presented for discussion at the Primer Encuentro possess a common denominator: within the framework of the debate over art’s place within the political-revolutionary process, they all attempt to formulate alternatives for the artistic field so that it may contribute effectively to the transformation of reality. That defense of artistic specificity and formal experimentation contrasts not only with the variants of political art but also with the depoliticized or recreational sectors of the Argentinean avant-garde in existence at that time. This concerns, above all, an alternative (ephemeral to be sure) to the predominant option of the pre-existing avant-garde that took place at a time when the political realm left no margin for the possibility of intervention within the public sphere by means of a method and logic particular to the artistic vanguard.
The Primer Encuentro was joined by such intellectuals as Nicolás Rosa and María Teresa Gramuglio (who did not present a paper, although she participated in the debates). They all enriched the discussions with contributions to aesthetic theory: beginning at the crossroads of structuralism, literary theory, semiotics and other new paradigms of thought. Rosa had been educated in literary studies and semiotics. He was one of the professors expelled from Argentine universitites during the dictatorial intervention of 1966. Later he would become a noted theoretician and literary critic.